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2011 NFL Free Agent Defensive Linemen

By: Roshan Bhagat

Defensive Ends:

Cullen Jenkins (GB) – Jenkins is a scheme-diverse linemen who consistently plays with outstanding leverage and hand use. He’s a terrific pass rusher who can get penetration against tackles and guards. With the Packers cap situation and players projected to become free agents in the near future, Jenkins has become somewhat expendable. Though there’s an outside chance he re-signs with Green Bay, the mutual interest between Jenkins and the Redskins appears more likely at this point.

Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG) – Kiwanuka is an explosive pass rusher who over the years has gotten lost amidst the talented Giants front 7. He’s an explosive pass rusher who was having a productive year before a herniated disc in his neck sidelined him for much of the season. The Giants have expressed interest in bringing him back, but with playing time in question, it will be interesting to see what Kiwanuka decides.

Charles Johnson (CAR) – Julius who? The Panthers replaced Peppers with 2007 3rd round pick, who quietly reached double digit sacks and surpassed Peppers’ sack total this year. Re-signing Johnson should be the team’s top priority to keep the pass rush respectable. If he plays the market, Johnson will find many suitors looking to tap into his pool of youth and potential.

Ray Edwards (MIN) – Though Edwards struggled out of the gates last season, he rebounded well later in the season to finish strong. He’s a well-rounded defensive end, but it should be noted that he’s benefited playing around his teammates. To the Vikings, Brian Robison will be a cheaper replacement, leaving Edwards free to sign elsewhere—perhaps with Philadelphia or Seattle, both of whom are in the market for another defensive end.

Jason Babin (TEN) – Babin has finally put together a season worthy of his 1st round draft status many years ago. He’s a hard-working end with a strong motor that consistently played in the opponents’ backfield a year ago. Though it appears the Titans would be the favorite to re-sign him at this point, Babin will likely explore other options before settling into his long-term deal.

Shaun Ellis (NYJ) – Ellis has been a key component of the Jets’ defense for many years now, but he may have played his last snap in New York. The team has plenty of free agents, or soon-to-be free agents that will need to be addressed to keep the core components of the team intact. With chaos of the upcoming weeks, it would be surprising to see Ellis targeted early on, but as the list of available ends dwindles down, Ellis could still provide a productive season at 5-technique.

Other Notable Free Agents:

Kenny Iwebema (ARZ)
Bryan Robinson (ARZ)
Jayme Mitchell (CLE)
Robaire Smith (CLE)
Stephen Bowen (DAL)
Jason Hatcher (DAL)
Marcus Spears (DAL)
Cliff Avril (DET)
Turk McBride (DET)
Mark Anderson (HOU)
Wallace Gilberry (KC)
Shaun Smith (KC)
Tony McDaniel (MIA)
Brian Robison (MIN)
Anthony Hargrove (NO)
Jimmy Wilkerson (NO)
Dave Tollefson (NYG)
Victor Abiamiri (PHI)
Nick Eason (PIT)
Chris Hoke (PIT)
Jacques Cesaire (SD)
Travis Johnson (SD)
Ray McDonald (SF)
CJ Ah You (STL)
Tim Crowder (TB)
Greg White (TB)
Dave Ball (TEN)
Kedric Golston (WAS)

Defensive Tackles:

Brandon Mebane (SEA) – At only 6’1, Mebane has the natural leverage and quickness to give interior linemen fits. He’s as underrated as they come and when you look at his numbers, it’s easy to see why he’s often snubbed when the discussion of the best defensive tackles comes up. Mebane has the work ethic and the tools to be a dominant defensive tackle for next decade and has been instrumental to the Seahawks’ run defense over the last 2 seasons. While Seattle may recognize this, they better not skimp on the initial offer because he will garner serious interest around the league.

Aubrayo Franklin (SF) – Though not as terrific as last year, Franklin had another strong season as the nose tackle for the 49ers and will enter this chaotic period as the top 3-4 NT on the market by far. With teams expected to make big early offers, Franklin will be a prime candidate to ink a hefty deal early in the process.

Pat Williams (MIN) – So much for the retirement talks of last offseason. As the league’s oldest defensive player, Williams hasn’t lost much in his game. Coach Leslie Frazier is interested in returning Pat Williams for his run defense and leadership. It seems like a reasonable fit to project Williams to the Vikings again on a one-year contract.

Other Notable Free Agents:
Alan Branch (ARZ)
Gabe Watson (ARZ)
John McCargo (BUF)
Nick Hayden (CAR)
Anthony Adams (CHI)
Matt Toeaina (CHI)
Andre Fluellen (DET)
Shaun Cody (HOU)
Antonio Johnson (IND)
Daniel Muir (IND)
Eric Foster (IND)
Ron Edwards (KC)
Paul Soliai (MIA)
Fred Evans (MIN)
Gerard Warren (NE)
Remi Ayodele (NO)
Barry Coefield (NYG)
Chris Hovan (STL)
Clifton Ryan (STL)

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